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Posted By: County Coordinator
Date: 5/5/2019 at 12:14:19

The Daily Gate City
Keokuk, Iowa
October 19, 1908



Remembers How Keokuk and Fort Madison Looked Fifty-Five
Years Ago


The Fort Madison Democrat has the following interesting item:
Editor Democrat: During the centennial celebration I sent several copies of the Evening Democrat away, and the following is a portion of a letter I received from my brother, A. M. Wheeler of Salem, Fulton county, Arkansas, who spent his boyhood days in and near Bonaparte, Iowa:

"I thank you, sister dear, for the newspapers containing articles about old Fort Madison, Iowa. The last time I was in Fort Madison was in the summer of 1853. Fort Madison was a very small town then. Bonaparte was a much larger town. I often hauled white pine lumber, which had been rafted down the Mississippi river to the head of the rapids. I hauled goods and iron from Keokuk. Many trips I made to each place, when a red-headed, freckled-faced and sun-burned boy, with Pomp and Ball, Kit and Fly (our horses).

"Front, or Water street, as we called it then, was a short row of frame shacks. Almost every house sold whiskey. The town had only two streets, running up and down the river, with a few scattering dwelling houses back on the hill or higher ground. It was a very tough place then, sure.

"Keokuk was also a rough, primitive town, streets ungraded. At that time all immigrants and freight supplies for western Iowa were landed at Keokuk. A daily stage coach ran from Keokuk to Fort Des Moines, six and sometimes eight horses to a coach. They were changed every sixteen miles at tavern stations, the roads often hub deep in mud on the flat prairies. Stage horses were driven at top speed and often on a run. Stage drivers were a jolly but rough lot of young men. Sister, how would you like to take such a trip across Iowa even now as many a man, woman and child took from 1850 to 1854"
236 Second St., Fort Madison


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